If you think urban design is just about buildings, take a look at the recipients of the fourth annual Urban Design Awards. There's hardly a building among them.

This year's awards, sponsored by the Urban Design Coalition and the Deseret News, pay tribute more to concepts than to concrete, more to process than to design.The people's choice awards, based on citizen input, will be awarded Jan. 10.

As in the past, the urban design awards celebrate efforts to make Salt Lake livable, attractive, vital and user-friendly. But the focus this year, notes coalition chairman Stephen A. Goldsmith, also emphasizes "participation."

"We're focusing on people as agents of change, rather than just on people as users of their environment."

This year's winners are First Step House, R/UDAT, Tanner Park, the Utah Transit Authority, and the Salt Lake City Arts Council's Brown Bag Series.

** FIRST STEP HOUSE is being honored for its efforts to bring beauty and dignity to the Jackson neighborhood just west of Interstate-15 on 400 North.

First Step House - the kind of halfway house often dreaded by potential neighbors - thinks of itself a neighbor, too. First Step's residents, all recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, have worked hard to beautify the treatment center and its environs.

The men have refurbished the old LDS chapel that now houses the non-profit residential treatment center, and this past summer they cleaned up and landscaped a vacant lot across the street.

First Step, under the direction of Bob Leggat, has proved to be a metaphor for the struggling Jackson neighborhood, which during the past year has made headlines for its fight against toxic waste and a proposed freeway exit.

** R/UDAT (pronounced roo-dat) was given an Urban Design Award for its grass-roots efforts to revitalize downtown Salt Lake. The R/UDAT (the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team) process, initiated by local architects and planners, brought nationally recognized planning experts to Salt Lake for six days last June.

After studying the city and conducting public hearings, the team released a 66-page booklet of recommendations called "Our Future By Design." Now city officials are in the process of trying to implement the far-reaching suggesions.

Already the R/UDAT process has been responsible for two city zoning changes: permission for sidewalk cafes (the kind with tables actually on the sidewalk) and an ordinance that discourages the practice of demolishing buildings and replacing them with parking lots.

** TANNER PARK - Like First Step House and R/UDAT, award-winning Tanner Park is another example of community participation. The site, located just south of Interstate-80 at 2700 East, was originally slated to house duplexes - until concerned neighbors and philanthropist O.C. Tanner pledged support and money to acquire the 10-acre parcel.

The park, which combines an untamed landscape with traditional park uses, received the most votes in the "balance between built and natural environments" category.

**THE UTAH TRANSIT AUTHORITY was honored this year for its efforts in creating what the design coalition calls "a free-flowing city."

The UTA was cited for its support of a long list of alternative transportation systems: ski bus service to Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, the BYU Football Flyer, the picturesque UTA Trolley, the downtown free-fare zone, Flex-Trans for handicapped riders, regional car-pooling, the Summer Youth Pass, memorable TV ads, "buzz-a-bus," and, last but not least, UTA's support of a light-rail system.

** THE SALT LAKE CITY ARTS COUNCIL'S BROWN BAG SERIES received an Urban Design Award for its additions to Salt Lake's otherwise rather anemic street life.

Last summer marked the eleventh year in the lunch-time concert series at various downtown parks. The 57 concerts included everything from cowboy poetry to The Saliva Sisters. This past summer the Brown Bag series was expanded to include 12 twilight concerts.